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Right Turn
Posted at 02:39 PM ET, 10/11/2012

Exclusive: PPP caught doing advocacy polling on race

PPP, a Democratic polling outfit, has long been viewed by suspicion by not only conservatives but by independent, credible pollsters. Now there is all the more reason to discount its “polling” as shoddy partisanship.

I spoke by phone today with Wisconsin voter Dave Summers, who lives in the Madison area. He told me, “I got a survey. I don’t normally answer these calls, but I did [this time]. I started out pretty normal — President, Senate.” However, he said it then got weirder. The automatic survey asked if he had a favorable or unfavorable impression of Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson. He said he was greatly disturbed when the automated call then asked, “Do you believe conservative media want white people to think Barack Obama hates them?” He said, “That bugged me.”

I called Tom Jensen of PPP. He said that it was his poll. I asked whether this wasn’t a classic advocacy poll designed to get a specific answer. He demurred, “Well, we were asking a series of questions about conservative media.” He said that this call followed the posting on Drudge of the 2007 video in which then-Sen. Barack Obama (D- Ill.) talks about Hurricane Katrina and denying aid to residents. He claimed that since conservative media were trying to make an issue of this (in fact most conservative outlets downplayed or ignored the issue), it was important to see whether that effort (to poison the thinking of white voters, I suppose) was “successful.”

The questions on conservative media and on white people were asked at the very end of the poll.

Wasn’t a question that put the conclusion in the question a leading question? “No, it wasn’t a leading question,” Jensen insisted. He then sent over the questions, which for reasons he did not explain were not released publicly.

But of course the question is one that imparts the information to the voter in the most slanted way possible. There are no questions about liberal media or bias. To ask the question is to assume that conservative media are up to make white people fear Obama

Every independent or Republican pollster I asked was shocked by the poll question, though many declined to talk on the record about the work of a competitor.

One Republican pollster told me that this was proof — “if any reminder is needed” — that PPP is a partisan outfit. I asked him, if he wanted to ask the question in an unbiased way, what would he ask? He laughed. “There’s no way to ask it. I would never ask it.” He continued, “I am just taken aback that a respectable polling firm would even ask a question like that.”

An independent pollster not associated with any candidate or party said this was typical of “low rent” polling and he would not put any credibility in such polls.

Whit Ayres of the conservative Resurgent Republic (who also polls for National Public Radio) was taken aback as well. He said, “Particularly for liberals it is a very leading question.” He said, “Suppose a pollster asked, ‘Do you think the conservative media want voters to think Obama is anti-Semitic?’ People would come out of the frame.”

Pollsters acknowledged that putting hot-button questions at the end at least did not taint the favorable/unfavorable result. But none of the pollsters I spoke with would have asked the question or thought it was appropriate. As one said, “It goes pretty far over the edge.”

The questions that PPP did not release publicly are here.

By  |  02:39 PM ET, 10/11/2012

 
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